Back in Chattanooga.

For the second year in a row, the Montana Grizzlies knocked off an East Coast power to advance to the FCS National Championship. Every year they're discredited. The strength of their conference is picked apart while another undefeated season is scoffed at. To many, the Big Sky is the Big 10 to the SoCon's SEC. There's still one left, but Montana has proven their schedule is irrelevant. They stack up with the best and they win the big games.

Montana's level of play was questioned throughout the year. As teams ahead of them lost, the Griz didn't move up from being the 2nd or 3rd ranked team. There were even weeks when they received the most first place votes yet still were held out of that #1 spot. Obviously, there were those who felt they didn't belong. If there's anyone out there who still believes that, they're ridiculous.

Obviously, there's one more to go. Last season, the Griz were favorites heading into Chattanooga. They had knocked off CAA champion and #1 seed James Madison; only Richmond, who lost to JMU earlier in the year and finished a lowly tie for third in the conference, remained.

This year, it's different. While the Griz hold the #1 seed this time, I think many favor Villanova. The Wildcats finished the season ahead in the rankings (despite having less first-place votes) and play in one of the East Coast power conferences. Sorry to go into minutiae, but this is important.

Last year I drove from Missoula to Chattanooga in hopes of seeing Montana win a National Championship my senior year. After the effort I put in to get to the game, I felt robbed when the Griz came out as flat as I've ever seen them play. Obviously, this year has to be different.

The Griz have faced adversity before, they've been questioned. In the first round they pulled off the biggest comeback in football this year. They blew out Stephen F. Austin before facing a tough App State team. The fact that they were unseeded is deceiving, they won ten straight coming into that game and the two early season losses were without Armanti Edwards. They're a very good team. And Montana beat them.

I have no doubt Montana has the talent and coaching it takes to win the National Championship. Much like last year, that isn't the issue. Montana must come with the level of play they've shown over the last 9 quarters of football. They need that desire, effort and enthusiasm. The difference between this year and last is that, this year, they'll be there. They will not come out flat this time.

Griz play like their hair is on fire, execute on offense, fly around on defense and win a close one. 28-24 Griz.

Note: I don't think I'll be able to make it out to Kirkland in time to get a spot (which I hear would be somewhere around 3:30) so I'll be at Sluggers Sports Bar in Pioneer Square (Seattle), where I hear there will be a few Griz fans. Hope to see a decent group there. Mention this post, and be one of the first people to do so, and I'll probably buy you a beer.

Photo credit: Becky Malewitz for MontanaGrizzlies.com

Resilience.

Marc Mariani touchdown

If you're Appalachian State, Richmond or anyone on this or the other side of your bracket, what transpired Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium was your worst-case scenario.

Montana couldn't be entering their second round game in a more optimal mental state. Against the Jackrabbits, they made mistake after mistake. If this was the "bend but don't break" strategy they were a piece of paper that had been folded in half. Pushed as far as any team could possibly be pushed, they didn't cave.

Going forward, is there any chance a team could push the Griz to a point where they're willing to pack it in, to think they can't win? Absolutely not. Last year, I drove thousands of miles in a shoddy camper to watch Montana fall behind early and never mount any kind of comeback. It felt like we showed up while the team stayed in Missoula.That shouldn't happen this year.

When they weren't tripping over themselves to hand SDSU the game, the Griz were unstoppable. Marc Mariani may be the most dangerous player in the FCS and a legit NFL prospect (see: Wes Welker). This team is every bit as dangerous as last year's impressive group and possibly even better.

But let's look at what could've happened this past weekend: The Giz could've come into Washington-Grizzly stadium clicking in every facet of the game and blown out the Jackrabbits by three scores. With the teams still alive on our side of the bracket, the Griz don't need a thick coating of overconfidence.

Then again, they could've played a low-scoring close game; one where the two teams exchanged mixtakes and it came down to a kick. And how does that look? It's very possible the Griz escape not believing they are truly deserving of their 1-seed.

So what do things look like now? They won't make the same mistakes. They're confident they can move the ball and win games but not so much that they aren't aware of the fact that any potential mistakes could cost them.

Idyllic.

 

 

Bobby Hauck does not deserve to be a head football coach

Bobby Hauck has grown too big for Missoula and the University of Montana. I'm sure this is what he envisioned all along. He'd steer the program to win after win as he transformed into this larger-than-life persona. He's close, but a bit off. Bobby Hauck has put himself above the University, the students and everything an upright program should stand for. 

This recent spat with the editors of The Kaimin is just one more thing to add to his already damaging résumé. Hauck feels as though he doesn't need to comment on the fact that a few of his players may or may not have beat the hell out of a University of Montana student. Sure, that may be true, the case was never reported to authorities, but treat the students who cover you with a bit of respect and possibly even a shred of class. Reporters do not deserve to be ignored at press conferences and swore at when asking questions in other venues. 

Not only has this mistreatment of the local media been a staple of Bobby Hauck's tenure here at Montana, but so have these violent incidents.  It isn't just here either. Bobby Hauck served as the recruiting coordinator at the University of Washington and played a hand in building one of the most purely evil teams in the history of football

So let that be his legacy. Forget the wins, forget that mask. Yes, I know coaches are hired to win football games but it should not come at the cost of a university's pride and dignity. In my mind, the negativity, animosity and separatism that he has brought between the football program and the students who support it is not worth the wins. 

When an athletic director is thinking about hiring him and decides to Google his name to see what people think of him, let them find this. When fans consider suggesting a new coach and want to see what's out there, do not think Bobby Hauck. He will win games, but at what cost? On the field, he is a good football coach. But to the media and in other areas off of it? Certainly not.  Don't hire him.

Sidenote: Griz win.

Update: I've received a few comments on this post after the Griz beat App State to advance to Chattanooga. Before I move on, I have to say I'm impressed by anyone who has the confidence to fire off an anonymous comment two months after this was posted, and only after Bobby Hauck got the Griz to the National Championship game. Takes balls. Well done.

Let me state that I love what Hauck has done on the field. He wins games. Period. I'm a huge Montana fan and definitely a bigtime supporter of Griz football. I'm thrilled the Griz will play for a National Championship game for the second consecutive year and the only disappointment I have surrounding this week is that I won't make it to Chattanooga after I had the opportunity to make the 2,000 mile drive there from Missoula last year.

Nevertheless, I'd be extremely hesitant to hire Bobby Hauck if I were the AD of Pac 10/WAC/Big East/whatever school. Before you say "that's why you're not" let me state that it's a big risk at best and horrible disaster of "how did you not see this coming?!" proportions at worst. I've stated my opinion on the matter and this current run the Griz are on doesn't change anything. He wins games. We knew that. Some people won't agree with my opinion on things, I understand that, but I'll continue to state it. He'll get a job, I know that, and good for him when he does.

You can still see the comments for this post here and I've even posted the ones from people who actually left an email address, even though it's probably fake. At least they tried. As far as new comments, they're really not. I've heard it before and the conversation isn't changing. 

Montana Grizzlies slip to 5th in latest FCS poll

I've always been a proponent of keeping an open mind of moving teams around in the rankings based on performance, not just wins. Sure Montana looked a little bit sluggish in the first half against Western State but I would have thought a 38-0 final result would've kept the Griz where they were in the rankings. Not so.

The Griz fell from third to fifth as Villanova, who rallied to beat Temple, and Northern Iowa, who was back-to-back blocked field goals away from beating Iowa, jumped ahead of them in the polls. Also, Richmond moved to the top spot after being Duke.

Anyway, here are the complete rankings, courtesy of The Sports Network.

Sports Network's FCS College Football Poll

Team (First-place votes) Record Points Previous Rank
1. Richmond Spiders (103) 1-0 3,042 2
2. Appalachian State Mountaineers (10) 0-1 2,740 1
3. Villanova Wildcats (3) 1-0 2,705 5
4. Northern Iowa Panthers (3) 0-1 2,651 4
5. Montana Grizzlies 1-0 2,615 3
6. James Madison Dukes 0-0 2,235 6
7. William & Mary Tribe (3) 1-0 2,204 14
8. Southern Illinois Salukis 0-1 1,980 7
9. New Hampshire Wildcats 1-0 1,952 8
10. Elon Phoenix 1-0 1,846 11
11. Weber State Wildcats 0-1 1,826 9
12. Cal Poly Mustangs 0-0 1,453 12
13. Central Arkansas Bears 0-1 1,350 13
14. Wofford Terriers 0-1 1,262 10
15. South Carolina State Bulldogs (1) 1-0 1,229 16
16. McNeese State Cowboys 1-0 1,109 15
17. Massachusetts Minutemen 0-1 1,027 17
18. Eastern Washington Eagles 1-0 905 18
19. Texas State Bobcats 1-0 805 20
20. Maine Black Bears 1-0 709 19
21. South Dakota State Jackrabbits 0-0 475 22
22. Eastern Kentucky Colonels 0-1 467 23
23. Jacksonville State Gamecocks 0-1 430 21
24. Harvard Crimson 0-0 361 23
25. Holy Cross Crusaders 1-0 348 25

Others receiving votes: Georgia Southern 212, Liberty 183, Eastern Illinois 167, Delaware 158, Florida A&M 158, Furman 146, Colgate 123, Tennessee-Martin 106, Grambling 103, Western Illinois 103, Samford 87, North Dakota State 71, Alabama A&M 61, Hofstra 50, Montana State 50, Penn 48, Northern Arizona 38, Prairie View 38, Rhode Island 37, Hampton 36, Brown 33, Murray State 24, Stephen F. Austin 20, Southern 18, Gardner-Webb 17, San Diego 16, Jacksonville 14, Youngstown State 14, Southeast Missouri State 13, Southern Utah 12, Norfolk State 11, South Dakota 10, Coastal Carolina 7, Southeastern Louisiana 7, Tennessee State 7, Towson 7, Yale 7, Lafayette 6, Virginia Military 6, Chattanooga 5, Stony Brook 4, UC Davis 4, Albany 3, Jackson State 3, Central Connecticut State 2, Duquesne 2, Tennessee Tech 2.

Montana Grizzlies beat Western State, set Wash-Griz record, continue to breath oxygen

If it weren't for the fact that this were the home opener, today would've been quite the ho-hum affair. The Griz seemed to treat it that way in the first half and after a series of mistakes led Western State—who I honestly didn't know which state they were in the western part of until the game started—only 10-0 at the half.

Of course, Montana managed to put things together and ended up thumping Western State (did you know that their home stadium is really high up? Wow, thanks Phil!) by the score of 38-0 despite the ongoing quarterback competition. Greg Rachac of the Billings Gazette openly wonders if Justin Roper managed to distance of himself from Andrew Selle.

It was great to see Selle get the start today. If nothing else it was a nod to Selle for all the work he has done in the last three years backing up Cole Bergquist.

But Selle obviously had some early jitters. He missed four of his first five passes, threw an interception and missed a wide-open Jabin Sambrano on third down that would have gone for a long touchdown in the first quarter.

By contrast, Roper -- aside from a fumble in the red zone that killed a scoring chance -- played better than Selle overall. Roper looked a bit more polished.

I tend to agree, but more than anything else just wish Hauck would pick a quarterback. As the old saying goes, "if you have two quarterbacks, you don't have any." Or something like that. Also, how illegitimate does a team look with two quarterbacks splitting time almost evenly? I mean, does a juggernaut title contender go with quarterback by committee strategy? I don't think so.

In other news, Chase Reynolds did his thing with 100 yards on 18 carries. None of the wide receivers stood out with Mr. Touchdown Marc Mariani (Sauce!!) getting just one grab for 26 yards. But hey, the defense pitched a shutout. That's...pretty good.

The real challenges start next week with UC Davis on the road. Looking forward to it.

Hope everyone in Missoula had fun.

Oh God, it's the return of Phil Buck

For out of state fans, Big Sky TV (at least since it's been free) has been a godsend. Last year was absolutely phenomenal. They used the cameras used at the stadium, the same shots they showed up on the big screens and instead of using the TV calls from Phil Buck, they pulled in the radio feed called by Mick Holien. Needless to say, it rocked. It rocked hard. As good as you could possibly expect from a broadcast of this level. It exceeded what KPAX was putting out by far. Honestly, this free broadcast that was probably quickly patched together beat the hell out of a full-time broadcast squad.

Well, it's a new year. Big Sky TV is brought to us out-of-state fans by something called 'B2 Networks'. Phil is back and I'm pretty sure they're grabbing the TV feed. Seriously, look at this quality:

If I had to guess whether they were paying more or less for this service, I'd probably guess more. The season starts with a slight disappointment.

Falcon PUNCH!

Say this kid were a junior. Would he be at Montana next season? Probably. At least I'd hope so.

Alright, I graduated but I'm going to do what I can to prevent this blog going completely extinct. Gameday tomorrow. Have fun. Pour a little out for me. 

May do a live blog, we'll see. If not, check out Twitter. @colinokeefe.

Beware the hair, some Colt Anderson highlights for Minnesota Vikings fans

Your typical hype video, lots of highlights with music pulled from a Nike ad:

And a very insightful video from Draftguys.com highlighting the many positive attributes in Colt's game:

**

Colt Anderson to the Vikings, Colin Dow to the Bengals

Colt Anderson and Colin Dow are the first two Montana Grizzlies to join NFL Teams. Anderson to the Minnesota Vikings with a three year deal and Dow joins the Bengals with a two year contract. NFL deals don't make much sense as they can essentially be torn up at any point but it's exciting none-the-less.

Here's what Colt had to say, from The Missoulian:

“It was tough watching guys you felt you were better than getting picked up,” admitted Anderson, who walked on at UM and leaves as a Football Championship Subdivision All-American. “It was frustrating to watch teams who you thought were interested in you take another guy.

“But bottom line, when the draft got over and teams started calling you - that was pretty exciting. A lot of teams showed interest.”
...

Anderson said 10 teams had been in contact with him as the draft wound down.

“But it came down to just a couple,” said the hard-hitting safety. “I just felt Minnesota was the best opportunity for me. They thought I could have an impact for them.”

My advice to Colt (besides not trying in any game against the Packers): dye your hair blond in an effort to look Scandinavian and thus more like the Viking mascot. How could that possibly hurt your chances of sticking with the team?

And Dow's take on the whole ordeal:

“It was nerve-wracking,” said Dow, a two-time all-Big Sky guard who kept hearing positive comments on the phone, but seeing other players picked on ESPN. “They said, ‘Hold on and keep your head up.' Nothing came to fruition, in the draft anyway, but I have an opportunity in front of me either way, and I'm going to take advantage of it.” ...

“I had a choice between Chicago, San Diego and Cincinnati,” said Dow, who was flown in for interviews by both Chicago and Cincinnati.

The Bengals won out.

“I decided that was the place I had the best chance to come and maybe make a difference,” he said. “I used a lot of the same variables that I had to when I was choosing between Wyoming and Montana (for college). Hopefully it works out as well.”

Advice for Dow: Umm, keep Carson Palmer healthy, party with Chad Ocho Cinco while managing to not get arrested.

Have fun guys, looking forward to seeing who else will get picked up.

No Montana Grizzlies picked in NFL Draft

Having other things to do today, the only part of the day two of the NFL draft I managed to catch was the last 2-3 picks. I stopped by ESPN's 'Draftcast' to see if any Montana Grizzlies had been picked. Up to that point, nil. I wasn't really hoping for anything until it got to Kansas City and pick number 256, the Kansas City Chiefs.

Why? Because JD Quinn would've made the absolute best Mr. Irrelevant ever. Did you know Mr. Irrelevant gets an entire banquet/week dedicated to him? Oh, and on top of that, Mr. Irrelevant gets to visit the Playboy Mansion. Imagine, an entire week dedicated to JD Quinn, one in which he hangs out with Hef and the girls. Would've been great.

So, we'll wait and see who gets picked up as a free agent and then does what they can to make the team.

Oh, yeah, I'm going to try and write more. If you couldn't tell, things like driving 40 hours (both ways) to watch your football team lose a national championship and having the last Griz hoops game you attend be a heartbreaking loss to the Cats kind of takes their toll.